Leaf Land (2016)
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer for Reader Views (12/16)
“Tiger Pelt” by Annabelle Kim is set in Korea during the Japanese occupation, 1943-1945. The story traces the lives of two children, Kim and Lee. Even through all the hard times, each seeks a new life in America. Whereas Kim is ambitious, hard working, and doing well, Lee has a harder time due to lack of skills, motivation, and money.
During his younger years, Kim Nam had to change his name from the Korean way to the Japanese way. It was a time of torture by teachers, class bullies, and Japanese toward the Koreans. School lessons were dropped and replaced by education on farming and animal husbandry, while the textbooks disappeared. Teachers instilled extreme physical exercise and the lack of food caused several students to collapse and die. One such student was Kim Nam’s younger sister. Even though his father immediately came to the school, the administrators just ignored him and said, “Get rid of the body.”
Lee Hana fared no better. With all the healthy boys and men sent off to war, young girls were torn from their families to become entertainment for the Japanese soldiers. It was under the guise of the “Women’s Voluntary Service Corp,” that girls like her at age 12 endured travesties that no child should ever experience. When Lee could get home and tell her mother what happened, her mother was outraged and told her, “You should have killed yourself.”
When both Kim and Lee make it to the United States Kim married his former mentor’s daughter. Lee continued her “entertainment” job. She married an American soldier who was black, and he continued the abuse. It was also during this time, that Lee’s husband sought out Kim and begged him to take care of Kim, as he wouldn’t do it anymore. Given that they had been childhood friends Kim felt he had no choice, even though it caused many problems in his own marriage and life.
“Tiger Pelt” by Annabelle Kim was very well written, the characters are intriguing, and the story is spellbinding. Throughout the book, readers will learn what it was like to live during that turbulent time. It is a story that readers will not want to put down.